Y2K nuclear warning

Issue 

Y2K nuclear warning

By Jim Green

On August 6, Hiroshima Day, a letter signed by more than 260 environmental, peace, trade union and church groups was sent to US President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin demanding that they deactivate more than 5000 nuclear weapons now on hair-trigger alert.

The letter expresses concern about the possibility that computers affected by the Y2K millennium bug may lead to the accidental launch of nuclear weapons.

The letter has signatories from the US, Canada, Australia, Russia, Ukraine, Latin America, Europe, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Pacific islands. It highlights three near disasters: a 1980 malfunction in a computer chip in the US sent alert signals falsely indicating approaching missiles; in 1983, Russian satellites mistook glare from cloud tops for a US missile launch; and in 1995, a US research rocket launched from Norway set off a full-scale alert in Russia.

John Hallam from Friends of the Earth in Australia said: "Y2K problems are likely to affect the computer systems that coordinate strategic nuclear weapons systems. Many respected experts are warning that due to Y2K problems, these systems, both in the US and Russia, pose an unacceptable risk of accidental nuclear war."

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